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Cockpit Country jury in, but no verdict announced

Published:Thursday | November 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A section of the Cockpit Country Reserve in Trelawny.


The jury, at long last, is in on a boundary for the ecological haven that is Jamaica's Cockpit Country, but alas, the verdict has yet to be announced.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness - also the man tasked to protect the local environment - revealed the decision had been made, during an interview with The Gleaner and Panos Caribbean at the climate talks here on Tuesday evening.

"That is work that has been long in coming, transcending administrations. Cabinet met a month or so ago and we took some decisions. It is now going through the process, being finalised. It has to be gazetted and the public will be aware of what the final decision is," he said.

He would not put a timeline on when the public will hear the decision.

"I would want to put a timeline on it - not even an estimate. But the decision is made; it is just the technical issues that are being worked out," Holness said.

The decision on the boundaries has been some eight years, two administrations and certainly more than three environment and/or energy and agriculture ministers in coming.

What is not clear is whether civil society actors, who have for years lobbied for a boundary for the area that is responsible for supplying 40 per cent of the population with freshwater, will be pleased with what government has come up with.

Whatever that is, it will likely be measured against existing proposed boundaries - each of which has been pegged with a dollar figure on likely earnings or loss thereof associated with bauxite mining.

They include the Cockpit Country Stakeholders' Group boundary that takes in St Ann, St Elizabeth, St James, and Trelawny, which would deny access to some 300 million tons of bauxite or US$9 billion. There are also:

- the Ring Road boundary that takes in Trelawny and St Elizabeth and which would deny access to 150 million tons or US$4.5-billion.

- the Sweeting/University of the West Indies (UWI) boundary projected to incur losses of US$4.2 billion or 140 million tons of bauxite; and

- the Maroon boundary comprised of Trelawny and St Elizabeth, and which would amount to US$3 billion or 100 million tons of bauxite lost.

In addition, there are the Forestry Reserve boundary that would cause a loss of US$450 million, or 15 million tons of bauxite; as well as the Jamaica Bauxite Institute boundary, which would incur losses of US$300 million, or 10 million tons of the ore.